Monday, August 20, 2012


The elections are now just 78 days away.  Being a citizen of Pennsylvania, generally a swing state in presidential elections, I am already inundated, saturated, and frustrated by the television ads supporting both candidates in this election.  Saturday morning, I received this Facebook post from a friend and another thoughtful disciple of Jesus Christ.

"I want to encourage all of my Christian FB friends. Do not let judgment, racism, classism or any other ungodly thing enter your heart in these days and months leading up to the elections. These political campaigns (on ALL sides) are aimed to divide people and pit you against each other. Always remember, we are in this world and participate in its processes but we are not of this world. Our allegiance is to GOD and each other as brothers and sisters in Christ (above any allegiance to a political party or candidate). Satan gets excited every 4 years. Do not let him use YOU as one of his devices. Be careful what you say and post and above all, be careful to "take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ."

My friend did not tell me who to vote for. He is trusting my intelligence, conscience and faith to guide me in this process.  He did remind me, however, of something that God's Word teaches but not all Christians seem to heed.  Our political allegiance or economic philosophy or cultural preferences should not supersede our commitment to Jesus Christ, and our promise to be His ambassadors and ministers of reconciliation in this world.

This does not permit me to abandon the political process as some have chosen.  Nor does it permit me to demonize candidates nor shade the truth when it comes to speaking about them.  It really doesn't give me the luxury of being a single issue voter nor does it excuse me for voting without prayerfully reflecting on which candidate will best serve this nation as God has ordained government to serve the people for whom Christ died.  In most elections, it rarely has made my choice simple nor has it allowed me to simply vote and then put my political attention on hold until the next election.  If the person I voted for is elected, I must both pray for them regularly and hold them accountable for their leadership choices.  If other candidate is elected, I must pray for them and hold them accountable for their leadership choices.

In voting, I respect that I live in a free society operating in a fallen world.  No human leader will be perfect nor will I agree with every decision they make.  Every human leader lives daily in the need of both repentance and forgiveness. Every human leader is ultimately accountable not only to the people who elected him, but to the God Who created him and Whose world, he holds in trust by the forbearance of God.

The only leader who deserves an unswerving "Yes" from me is God.  

A human leader will ultimately earn my vote - by his character, his values, and his dreams for the nation that I love and of which I am a part.

                              (C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

Saturday, August 18, 2012


It's Saturday. The Tigers-Orioles game has not started.  I was surfing the net observing the culture.  Just some random thoughts.  Not earth-shattering, but perhaps you'll find them interesting.

The best quote from the Olympics came from Gabby Douglas:

"What's wrong with my hair? I just simply gelled it back, put some clips it and put it in a bun. Are you kidding me? I just made history? And you're focusing on my hair? I just want to say we're all beautiful inside out. Nothing is going to change."

The baseball season is coming in its final weeks and with the new wild card options, pennant races seem tighter than ever.  There are some very surprising teams still in the hunt for one of those cherished play off spots: Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles are the three that seem most prominent.  There are some ones we expected to be there: the Yankees, Tigers, Rays, Rangers, Angels, White Sox, Braves, Giants and Dodgers.  The Cincinnati Reds have endured the injury challenges of this lengthy season and are of this writing the best team in baseball.  The Phillies have pretty much died on the vine and the Miami Marlins surrendered to a season-ending fire sale.  The most controversial demise, although they still are kicking and still claim the spotlight on ESPN, are the Boston Red Sox.

The big question right now is "who should be fired--Bobby Valentine or the team?"  Frankly, it's the team that is not performing; but it's easier to fire the coach.  Despite their protestations of support, you really have to wonder what the Red Sox management will ultimately do.

Now the dumbest thing I heard this week came from Dallas, where a Cowboys' fan is suing the team because she burned her tush on a dark bench that was out in the sun at the team's practice facility.  My thought was, "Why didn't you just stand up when you realized it was hot?"  It's not the first dumb thing I have heard from that football organization with its egocentric owner Jerry Jones.  The dumbest thing I might here next is that they settled out of court.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


 by Steve Dunn

On June 18th, I resigned as the Lead Pastor of the Church of God of Landisville.  I had been their pastor since September 2001, arriving just a few days before the epochal events of what is now known as "Nine Eleven."  (In fact, I met a large portion of my congregation at a prayer meeting called on that tragic and historic day.)  The church and I had journeyed along a Holy Spirit-led and well-documented path from being a traditional church with an inward-focus to an outward-focused church known for its service to the community and being a safe place for people in need.  A million dollar building expansion to better serve the community (not just the church) was paid off in two years.  We became the second highest per capita giving church in our region, but more importantly, helped lead and influence dozens of people to begin following Jesus as Savior and Lord every year for the past ten.

In recent years we had struggled, as have many congregations, with the powerful changes occurring in our world and were impacted frustratingly by the fallout from the economic collapse of 2008.  Like most middle-sized  churches we saw some of our dreams thwarted by events happening to individuals and at least two unexpected staff departures.  Yet God had continued to prosper the people and we to this day are a wonderful church that very much aims at being the best church for their community. They are still a people on mission with Jesus and new people continue to find Christ through them.

The church needed to go to the next level of fruitfulness at a time where some were comfortable with who they were and others desiring to pull back so they could find relief from some of the tough times that come from living on the cutting edge of the Kingdom of God.

The elders of the church felt the latter position was unacceptable, but the former also needing some new passion to ignite the fire again.  Both the elders and I agreed that my passions were shifting elsewhere which they understood and even affirmed, but they needed a new leader at Landisville. 

I felt the Lord say, "I have other things for you to do and the church needs someone else to lead them where they need to go" and so I resigned.  July 22nd was my final Sunday with the church.

Now here's crazy part. 

I did not have another job waiting, nor even a clue.  I am not particularly flush with money and basically live closer to paycheck to paycheck than I would like.  In eight weeks, the paychecks would end.  I had often counseled young people dissatisfied with jobs not to quit until they had a new one.  And here I was doing the opposite.

When one of my friends heard the news, his first reaction was "Steve was either very angry at the church, or he was just crazy."

Later, when I explained how I felt God had told me to step away, that my wife Dianne was in complete agreement, he said, "You really have a lot of faith." (That wasn't mildly disguised sarcasm, it was a statement of respect.)

A lot of things have happened since then, which I will write about later.  A lot of things have happened that have confirmed that God has something in mind even if I don't have a clue.  What I am learning to do is live by something that I have long taught as a pastor, "We walk by faith, not by sight."

So for now, Dianne and I are simply on a crazy journey of faith.  Because of the ethics of my profession and the practice of my denomination,  I will need to move from the community if I continue to pastor; so that is what I am expecting to do.  But now, a few days shy of two months since that resignation, I am still without a clue of where God wants us to land.

But I am eagerly anticipating what God intends to do in and through Dianne and myself.

Did I tell you God sold our house in 28 days?

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Like most serious bloggers I am always reading the blogs of others.  Lately I have tended to focus on those dealing with weighty matters of state, culture and society.  But I also make sure to find time for the more esoteric and humorous and those focusing on the small things that are important because life matters. Here are some of my recent favorites:

Ruminating About Gum

Posted on August 12, 2012 by Bronx Boy

I don’t remember the first time I was allowed to chew gum. It’s one of those milestones in life that nobody bothers to record. Your mother might write down when you finally said a real word, or managed to tie your own shoes, but there’s never any mention of the gum-chewing accomplishment. And that’s a mystery, because it takes some skill, as well as intelligence and concentration, to keep chomping away at something and avoid swallowing it.

So how do we make the transition? On Thursday we’re too young to chew gum, because there’s a danger that we might choke, and on Friday everyone’s okay with it. Maybe the big people just stop paying attention. Or maybe there’s some traumatic event going on, or it’s game seven of the World Series, and it goes unnoticed that you have twelve sticks of Juicy Fruit in your mouth.
We were never permitted to chew gum in school — in class or out on the playground, and certainly never in church. I was once almost nabbed by a priest, who asked if I was chewing gum in the confession booth, a violation that would have seemed unthinkable if I hadn’t actually been doing it. Chewing gum in God’s home was a sign of disrespect bordering on blasphemy. You might as well have taken one of those new-fangled magic markers and drawn fake eyeglasses on the statue of Saint Anthony. So, I lied.

“No, Father,” I answered, “I don’t even like it,” while deftly tucking the forbidden Fruit Stripe gum into a far corner of my mouth. I had learned this trick from an older boy, who was sure that sooner or later it would help me stay out of serious trouble. It seemed to work, but then it also created a sizable dilemma, because I immediately knew that lying to the priest was a much bigger sin. There was no commandment that said, Thou shalt not chew gum, although you’d have thought otherwise, judging by the way everyone tended to react to it. In fact, when the Old Testament was written, gum didn’t exist yet. I suppose Moses could have slipped it in anyway, if he’d wanted to, but it would’ve just confused everybody even more, kind of like our third-grade response to Thou shalt not commit adultery. None of us had any idea what the word meant, but that didn’t stop us from pretending that we did. Here’s the definition a classmate and I concocted sometime in 1964: “It means you shouldn’t act like an adult before you are one, because you end up doing things you aren’t supposed to do, and that’s called adultery.”

According to historians, it was the ancient Greeks who invented chewing gum, which they called mastiche. This hideous resin, exuded from the bark of the mastic tree, was also used to make varnish. I can’t imagine what that tasted like, but I also wonder if it had some toxic chemical ingredient that entered the bloodstream and made its way to the brain, causing an altered mental state. This may explain why the Greeks spent so much of their lives lounging around, sitting on boulders and watching plays outdoors during lightning storms, or looking for hidden pictures in the night sky, or asking if a goat really existed.
There wasn’t much to do in those days, and people were always searching for something to chew on, just to help them stay awake during chariot races and barbarian invasions. Over the centuries, they  discovered many suitable substances, but it was still mostly tree sap and beeswax.

Then around 1860, someone figured out that they could make money selling flavored gum, and an industry was born. By the time I paid my first visit to a candy store, bubble gum was being sold, two-for-a-penny and wrapped in waxy comic strips that looked as though they’d been drawn underwater. There were also bubble gum cigars, sacks of chewable gold nuggets, and gum hidden inside lollipops. And, of course, gumball machines were everywhere, like short tax collectors waiting to drain our pockets of pennies and nickels. The flavor of gum lasted about ninety seconds, and so we required more and more of the stuff to maintain the desired effect.

I don’t know if it was the actual gum the nuns objected to, or the way we chewed it. More than one teacher described the sight as similar to watching cows eat. Not one of us had ever been outside the Bronx, and so our familiarity with farm animals of any type was limited. No doubt we’d all seen cows on television, but had somehow failed to notice how they chewed. Anyway, the nuns confiscated our gum on a regular basis, along with candy, baseball cards, comic books, slingshots, and pea-shooters. Those items, and others, were usually stashed deep inside our desks. Hardened gum could be found adhered to the bottom of every chair and table in the school. Most terrifying, though, was getting caught actively chewing in class and being summoned to the front of the room. We would have to remove the gum, still warm and sticky, and place it into the nun’s outstretched hand, even as we withered under her scorching glare. All of the sisters had taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but it was still hard to comprehend how they didn’t draw the line at wet chewing gum.
My earliest encounter with bubble gum probably involved the brittle, pink, wafer-thin slab included in packs of trading cards. Opening the pack and slipping the gum into the mouth was a smooth and automatic motion that served to enhance the discovery of a Mickey Mantle or Whitey Ford baseball card, which I guess was something like the experience the ancient Greeks had when they calculated the area of a circle, or when they contemplated the essence of reality, all while popping in a fresh piece of bark.
I eventually graduated to sticks of gum, individually wrapped in packs of five. Sometimes I would unwrap and remove one. Then I’d refold the rectangle of aluminum foil, pressing it flat with my fingernail to make it look new and unopened. I’d slide the foil back into the paper sleeve, then offer it to an unsuspecting family member. I can’t tell you how many times I pulled this trick on parents, aunts, uncles, and my older brothers, and they never seemed to catch on. Always, they would open the empty wrapper and be completely surprised that there was no gum inside. It was pretty funny for the first few hundred times, but after a while I began to worry that maybe my family wasn’t very smart.

Would Plato or Socrates have fallen for such nonsense? Did the early Greeks even play tricks? Or were they too busy inventing geometry and trying to figure out how to eat artichokes? Did they blow bubbles with mastiche, and if so, did it get stuck in their beards? Did they ever leave the gum in their pocket on laundry day, or find some in a jacket they hadn’t worn since last spring? Did they have trouble throwing away a chewed piece because it wouldn’t come off their fingers?
I mostly wonder where it all began. Who was the first person to chew gum? Those ancient people were careful about preserving historic events. They could recount epic battles and long voyages. They could explain how to find the third side of a right triangle, and the very meaning of life. But no one bothered to remember that first mastiche chewer, just as no one ever claimed to be that person. Was his mother proud of his accomplishment? Did anyone even recognize this important milestone? Whoever he was, he changed the world. Maybe he was in school at the time, or out on the playground. More likely, he was praying in the Temple of Zeus, and had the gum tucked into a far corner of his mouth. At least that’s what I prefer to believe.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


 by Stephen Dunn

Last Sunday I officiated at the wedding of two amazing Christians: Wilshaw Stevens, Jr. and Lynn Byers.
Both graduates of Pittsburgh, they are pursuing careers in medicine--Wilshaw as a physical therapist for children and Lynn as an RN.  I have known Lynn for eleven years as her pastor.  Wilshaw, I met after they met in college.  In the last year, as he worked with me to do a some pre-engagement counseling, I got to know Wilshaw quite well and I was impressed by the heart for God and the love he possessed for his now bride, Lynn.

You heard me right-pre-engagement counseling. He requested that I spend time with him examining God's expectations for marriage and his own readiness to be the husband of Lynn Byers.  Lynn, at the time, was serving as a nurse on a medical mission assignment in Haiti. Wilshaw was working in Dallas. I was pastoring in Pennsylvania. The work was done by phone and internet.  It was a first for me.  Later, Lynn would join this pre-engagement reflection. She was in Port-au-Prince, so we needed to do three way conversations by telephone with questions posted over the Net.

In December, when Wilshaw officially proposed to Lynn (who was now home from Haiti); there was no question that they were approaching this relationship out of their understanding of God's will for them as persons and His desire for them to become one flesh, a new family serving God in a troubled, needy world where the darkness tries to quench the light.

Attending the wedding were family members, friends from the church, from the church they attended in Pittsburgh, and persons they had met on their personal journey--many of whom were Christians serving God in a variety of settings.  Their mutual spiritual grandmother made the trip in from Pittsburgh to offer a prayer of blessing.

The music at the wedding reception began with contemporary Christian worship and praise music.  (Later the group rocked to the oldies from the 60s and 70s).  The spirit of celebration at that party was an infectious and as wholeness as I have ever experienced.

In fact, my memory of that day and of this couple will forever be etched with a powerful sense of joy.  Make no mistake, they have chosen to work in hard and difficult places where sin is often strong and victimizes many.  They both know what it is to experience deprivation and frustration.  But it has not quenched the basic joy that is in them.

I Peter 1:8 comes to my mind when I think of this relationship: "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy".

That joy is why I believe this marriage was made in heaven, and as this couple serves God on earth, it will bring joy to others.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


 by Stephen L Dunn

There have been so many major events this week worthy of reflection in a blog focusing on the theme "life matters."  There were the shootings in Aurora, the response to the ongoing drama at Penn State; even the arrival of the Summer Olympics. But today I feel the need to focus on the attacks on Dan Cathy and his company Chik-fil-a.  Because Cathy has been candid and outspoken on his support of the traditional family, he has become a target for many--but especially politicians seeking to woo the gay, lesbian and transgender vote in America.  The mayor of Boston and two alderman in Chicago have gained headlines and notoriety by castigating Cathy, threatening to boycott and or shut-down proposed operations by the restaurant chain in their communities.  The vilification is worthy of an Adolf Hitler or Osama bin Laden, whose crimes against humanity are well-documented.

All they have succeeded in doing is providing more fuel on the divisions in our nation and amped up the already uncivil attitude that pretty much squelches honest and respectful civil discourse in a free society. In her excellent blog She Worships, Sharon Hodde Miller writes:

"Although I love Chick-fil-a’s food, there is much more behind my affection than the menu. I love that Chick-fil-a always has incredible customer service. I love knowing that I will be greeted with a warm and welcoming smile as soon as I approach the counter. I love that the employees go out of their way to ensure that you have an enjoyable dining experience. I love that the stores are always clean and hospitable. I love that Chick-fil-a is constantly full of small children because parents know it’s a safe place to bring their kids. I love that Chick-fil-a is intentional about being a positive influence in the community, and that it organizes family friendly events each week. I love that many of the store managers are some of the very best people I know. I love that Chick-fil-a goes out of its way to support the marriages and families of its employees. And I love that its employees are fiercely loyal to the company, and its patrons, as a result.

Perhaps most of all, I love that Chick-fil-a is pro-family, and not in an empty, hypocritical way that merely judges certain individuals while ignoring the sins of others. I love that Chick-fil-a is pro-family in an edifying and fruitful way: they are taking active steps to help the men and women in their company be better husbands and wives, and they are providing the families in their communities with kid-friendly activities designed to encourage family togetherness. And they do all this, not as a marketing gimmick, but as an expression of the company’s Christian values.

Chick-fil-a is not a perfect company because it is not led or employed by perfect people, but it is certainly a good company. It has worked hard to serve whatever community surrounds it–not just the Christians, and not just the traditional families, but everyone in the community. I wish more companies were like that."

I could not have given a more articulate statement of the values and the value of this company and its corporate leadership.  Read more from Sharon ...

What has earned this vilification?  The Cathy's have refused to bow down to the god of political correctness that rules the intellectual and political mindset of this nation.  In our nation today, the worst crime against humanity is to appear intolerant--i.e., refusing to accept the values of another person when we believe those values are destructive to the moral fiber on a people whose moral compass is spinning madly. His decision also to go against the conventional wisdom of retailers like Target who have chosen political correctness and its profits over respect for the traditional values of so many persons in this land--at the risk of profits (he also closes his stores on Sunday out of respect for the sabbath principles of his faith.)

The same guardians of political correctness seem untroubled by people who want to excuse the complicity of a football coach in one of the most horrendous child abuse cases in recent history because he is such a sports icon. They seem unwilling to speak out against the almost criminal gridlock in our political system that denies people adequate health care, continues to fund research into esoteric plant life while child care and social services are being shut down.  If a politician in Boston or Chicago tried to shut down Dan Cathy because he was promoting a homosexual agenda, he would have been immediately excoriated in the press and from pulpits both political and religious.

I am troubled by all of this on two other levels.  One is the boycott and counter-boycott threats that have erupted that simply amps up the already divisive rhetoric.  Who will be hurt by boycotts and demonstrations at the stores--probably the employees (the clerks, cooks, counter people) but acts of arrogance and anger in or around their stores.

I also believe that those persons of the homosexual community who are genuinely wrestling with their lifestyle issues.  The anti-boycott customers  can make this about their opposition to homosexuality with a vehemence that can say to homosexuals that Christians are unwilling to show grace and gracefulness to people with whom they disagree.

And all of us should be outraged that public servants have so little respect for the Constitution that they would impose a litmus test of politically correct speech to the right to do business.  The Constitution embeds freedom of speech into the body politic of our nation.  Once you change that definition then you can justify all manner of injustices into a free nation.  The next step could be the traditionally-minded majority taking away the rights of emerging iconoclasts, or a party in power defining what religion all Americans would be permitted or practice. 

Fortunately, more intelligent minds are at work: The Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe editorial boards—normally not sources of traditional beliefs—have defended Chick-fil-A's ability to open restaurants.

"Which part of the First Amendment does Menino (Mayor of Boston)
 not understand?" a Globe editorial read July 25. "A business owner's political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license."

More than vilifying men of commerce who take stands based on their deep moral convictions (and the financial risks that accompany those stands), we should be calling to account the politicians and forces that use political correctness as a bludgeon of conformity upon a free people.

But such is the tyranny of political correctness.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn